Noel Whelan is backing Robin Koch to rise to the challenge and prove that he can make it as a top defender at Leeds United.
The former Whites forward, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insists we haven’t seen enough of Koch to judge whether he can make it in the Premier League.
A Leeds source has told Football Insider that Bielsa believes Koch is ‘too soft’ to thrive in the Premier League and make it as an elite defender.
Koch, 24, joined Leeds from Freiburg last summer and after starting his side’s first 10 league games of the season he was struck down with a long-term knee injury.
He has made three appearances since returning from his knock but they have all come off the bench.
When asked if the Kalvin Phillips midfield role would suit Koch if he isn’t going to be deployed at centre back, Whelan told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, “Possibly but I still think he’d put himself down as a centre half.
“He’s been playing centre half for Germany. It’s one of those where you have to rise to the challenge and find that aggressive side.
“I’m sure he’s got that in him, we haven’t seen enough of him to say that he hasn’t.
“The game has changed, it’s not as physical as it used to be and defenders need to have a different skill set.
“A lot of it is on the ball, positional sense and while being aggressive is part of the game as a centre half I think when he sees the aggressive nature of [Liam] Cooper, [Diego] Llorente and [Pascal] Struijk he’ll know what he has to do to break into that team.”
Koch has played less than half an hour of top flight football since his return from injury as two of his appearances were last minute cameos against Fulham and Sheffield United.
He was an unused substitute for Monday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool Pascal Struijk was selected to replace the suspended Liam Cooper.